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Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight review at Ovalhouse, London – ‘a sensory onslaught’

Alicia Jane Turner, Christopher Brett Bailey, and George Percy in kissing the Shotgun Goodnight at Ovalhouse, London. Photo: The Other Richard

Christopher Brett Bailey has just broken Ovalhouse. The sound equipment has packed up and an emergency interval has to be inserted into his new show Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight – a show to which sound is central.

For those who missed it, Bailey’s last piece, This is How We Die, acquired a cult-like status among some of its audience. It was a hypnotic, gloriously plosive monologue that put American literature through a mincer before enveloping its audience with noise. Shotgun feels like the after-birthed aftermath of that show. Formally it’s an inversion – whereas before the words came first, and language was its own instrument, here the spoken segments feel tentative and secondary compared to the music.

We’re promised “a hell-machine” in the opening monologue – this takes the shape of a thumping industrial noise-scape, a sensory onslaught inspired by Burroughs, Genesis P Orridge and their ilk, vibratory, occasional melodic, more often disorientating and relentless, a tinnitus engine.

Bailey and musicians Alicia Jane Turner and George Percy attack the innards of a piano, sawing at it like a stringed instrument, before launching into a high-decibel. sternum-quaking tsunami of sound, accompanied by throbbing psychedelic lighting by Lee Curran. Bailey spends a lot of the piece with his back to the audience, crouched over his guitar or twirling his microphone, lights blazing behind him.

When Bailey does speak we get some rich images – melting men falling earthwards – but it’s as if the text has been edited into submission. It’s an exercise in clitoral flicking compared to the full-on tongue-fuck that was TIHWD, more of a coda or an appendix than a complete piece, and more satisfying when engaged with as such.

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Psychedelic sonic journey that doesn’t match the power of its predecessor